Tesla Chief Proposes 600 MPH 'Hyperloop' Train

Dennis Faas's picture

Elon Musk, the head of Tesla Motors and several other companies, has unveiled a design for a train that could get from Los Angeles to San Francisco in just half an hour. Musk described the solar-powered 'Hyperloop' train as a cross between a Concord jet and an air hockey table.

Musk says he came up with the design because he was disappointed by the California government's plans to spend $68 billion on a more traditional high-speed rail link that would make the LA-San Francisco trip around two hours and forty minutes long. He argues that's too much time given the project's enormous cost.

Musk's alternative is the Hyperloop, a project he's been working on for the past year but is still in the concept stage. (Source: forbes.com)

Passengers Travel In Confined Pods

Rather than use rails or tunnels, the system would use electromagnetic tracks designed to follow existing expressway road routes. Passengers would be put into narrow "pods" housing around 28 people and capable of traveling at speeds of over 600 miles per hour.

Though technically sophisticated, the basic principle of the system is very simple. An electromagnetic section of tube would be activated just ahead of the train, creating enough force to drag the train forward.

This first section would then be switched off, with the next section of tube activated to drag the train forwards again, and so on.

The activation and deactivation of magnets would be carefully controlled to create a smooth and continuous motion for the train. Musk says it would feel more like a plane than a train as, after acceleration at the start, passengers wouldn't feel any speed or motion during the journey.

Intercity Journeys Could Be Faster Than Flying

According to Musk, the system would work best for distances of 900 miles or less. In these cases the Hyperloop would be faster than planes because there's less time lost taking off and landing. Beyond that distance, air travel would be both cheaper and faster.

Another factor, not discussed by Musk, is that an hour or so is probably the longest many passengers would feel comfortable in a relatively confined space with no natural lighting or view of the outside world.

Musk says it would take around a year to produce a credible demonstration of the technology and seven years to get it ready for public use.

He also insists he doesn't have the time to develop the idea himself, but is willing to get the project started and then make all the design and technical details public for another organization to turn into a reality. (Source: teslamotors.com)

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